Venezuela tries to keep it together without Chavez

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JANUARY 7, 2012

Venezuela’s acting President, Nicolás Maduro, returned to his country Thursday after visiting Cuba, where Hugo Chavez was admitted last month to have surgery. Maduro continued the government’s official policy of not revealing details about Chavez’ health status while affirming that the nation is united behind the so-called Chavismo.

After five days in Havana, Maduro avoided talking about Chavez’ health when he appeared in public at a coffee factory but said that Venezuela is experiencing tough days. The vice-president said that now more than ever Venezuelan’s are together, which he labeled as a response to the information published in recent weeks about divisions within the Venezuelan government due to the prolonged absence of their president. Some media and many social network accounts even announced that Chavez had died. The Mail Online published an article citing that Chavez is alive just because he is connected to life support machines.

“We are united more than ever, Maduro said. We’ve sworn before Commander Chavez that we will be united with the largest loyalty in history,” Maduro asserted in the presence of the President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, with whom Maduro maintains a tense relationship, and the Minister of Energy and Petroleum, Rafael Ramirez, another member of the executive leadership reluctant to Maduro. The vice-president also ensured people that the President will return to the country “sooner rather than later”.

“We have one single transition and it has been going on for at least six years and President Hugo Chavez is the commander of the Bolivarian revolution,” Maduro said in a ceremony in a nationalized company. “Today we have an economy in transition to socialism,” Maduro said in his first official act after traveling to Cuba last December 29 December.

Meanwhile, Cabello has endorsed the “revolutionary unity” as a top priority after the reelection of Chavez. The President of the National Assembly has warned the opposition that it will have to “wait for 2000 years” before they can cause fractures within the ‘chavismo’. “We have no doubt, we will not let any effort be wasted. Everyday there will be more revolution. Do not let yourselves be manipulated by rumors from the opposition,” he said.

On the state of Chavez, Maduro has merely reiterated its willingness to continue as head of government, which has been report number 26 on the president’s health. “President Hugo Chavez is leading the country, he is the first worker. Chavez is a man of the people who became the first soldier and worker of the Fatherland”, he said. “We arrived in Havana after visiting President Chavez taking him all the love of the Venezuelan people,” he said while being flanked by the full cabinet. Maduro has asserted that Chavez is “aware” of the situation and has again praised his “fighting spirit”. Maduro traveled to Havana with the State Attorney General, Cilia Flores, and other members of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).

On 12 December, Chavez underwent a “complex” surgery, which lasted six hours, where an international medical team extirpated a tumor in the same area in which another tumor had been removed. Since the last operation, Chavez has not appeared in public, nor has the government released any image or recording.

Back in June 2011, when he was diagnosed with cancer in the pelvic area, the president of Venezuela, underwent three surgeries – not counting the last one -, four cycles of chemotherapy and six of radiotherapy. Throughout 2012, Chavez faced sharp criticism from the opposition for having medical treatment in Cuba and in Venezuela as well as his prolonged absences from the country. The secrecy surrounding his cancer treatment triggered speculation about the true state of health of the president too.

Chavez won the presidential elections on October 7, earning his fourth consecutive term. However, the cancer predictably came back and is now threatening continuity in the Palace of Miraflores, so he asked his supporters to support the Vice-president, Nicolas Maduro, as his successor, in case “something happens”.

The deadline for Chavez to return to office is January 10, the day that he will have to be sworn in as president. Should this act not materialize if he is not able to make the trip back to occupy office, new elections will have to take place within 60 days. Although this scenario is denied by the Venezuelan government, Chavez’ health is very delicate.

The Venezuelan president’s situation is difficult, after undergoing a fourth operation for cancer relapse, as stated by the Uruguayan Senator Lucia Topolansky, wife of President Jose Mujica. The situation of the president of Venezuela is “complex” and the situation in general “rather unpredictable,” said the lawmaker to Unoticias.

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Will the ‘Revolution’ continue in Venezuela?

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | DECEMBER 10, 2012

The long time Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez feels that his time as chief of the government is coming to an end, so he has officially named Vice-president and Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro, as the man who should occupy his post.

Hugo Chavez seems to have assumed that the cancer he suffers from will not allow him to complete or even the fourth six-year term to which he was elected on 7 October. Given this situation, Chavez addressed Venezuelans on Saturday to anoint Vice President Maduro as his successor. Minutes earlier, Chavez had announced that he would be subjected to a fourth surgery to treat a cancer that was diagnosed back in June 2011.

Chavez explained the situation of his illness: “Due to the presence of some symptoms my medical team decided to run new tests. Unfortunately, the tests revealed the presence of cancer cells in the same area affected before. So, it is absolutely necessary to submit a new surgery. ”

If the president does not survive the operation, the Venezuelan Constitution states that the vice president should take over the presidency until new elections are due. Under this assumption, Chavez said: “Nicolas Maduro not only should end the period, as mandated by the Constitution, but it is my firm opinion that he has the skills to be re-elected in the following presidential elections”.

It is the first time that Chavez openly discussed the possibility of his death and ordered his followers what to do in case he dies during or after the surgery. “I ask all the support of the people and of all streams, civil, military, under these circumstances. All support, first for the revolutionary government at this juncture and the support and unity to the decisions that have to be taken. Today we have a country, make no mistake. ”

Since being diagnosed with cancer last year, Chavez had refused to reveal the severity of their disease and the organs of the body that have been affected by it. So far, Chavez has undergone three operations, two of them to remove two separate malignancies, and received radiotherapy and chemotherapy sessions. This Friday he returned to Venezuela after spending nine days in Cuba, where he received an alternative therapy called “hyperbaric oxygenation”.

After the fourth re-election of Chavez, Nicolas Maduro has become the strong man of the Revolution. In Venezuela, he has been Foreign Minister since 2006 and has been in charge of the presidency during Chavez’s most recent trip. Maduro was a bus driver and union leader and is recognized as loyal and friendly.

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Venezuela chooses more of the same pain

By FRANK BAJAK and IAN JAMES | AP | OCTOBER 8, 2012

President Hugo Chavez put to rest any doubts about his masterful political touch in winning a third consecutive six-year term after a bitterly fought race against a youthful rival who has galvanized Venezuela’s opposition.

The state governor who lost Sunday’s presidential vote, Henrique Capriles, had accused the flamboyant incumbent of unfairly using Venezuela’s oil wealth to finance his campaign as well as flaunting his near-total control of state institutions.

Still, he accepted defeat as Chavez swept to a 10-point victory margin, the smallest yet for him a presidential race. This time, the former army paratroop commander won 55 percent of the vote against 45 percent for Capriles with more than 90 percent of the vote counted.

Chavez will now have a freer hand to push for an even bigger state role in the economy, as he pledged during the campaign, and to continue populist programs. He’s also likely to further limit dissent and deepen friendships with U.S. rivals.

Chavez spent heavily in the months before the vote, building public housing and bankrolling expanded social programs.

“I think he just cranked up the patronage machine and unleashed a spending orgy,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue think tank.

But Shifter also noted the affinity and gratefulness Venezuela’s poor feel for Chavez. “Despite his illness, I still think he retains a strong emotional connection with a lot of Venezuelans that I think were not prepared to vote against him.”

“They still think that he’s trying hard even if he’s not delivering what he promised, that he still has their best interests at heart,” Shifter said. “That’s the political skill that he has. He hasn’t lost that touch.”

Chavez spoke little during the campaign about his fight with cancer, which since June 2011 has included surgery to remove tumors from his pelvic region as well as chemotherapy and radiation treatment. He has said his most recent tests showed no sign of illness.

Tensions were high Sunday night as announcement of the results were delayed.

Finally, fireworks exploded over downtown Caracas amid a cacophony of horn-honking by elated Chavez supporters waving flags and jumping for joy outside the presidential palace.

“I can’t describe the relief and happiness I feel right now,” said Edgar Gonzalez, a 38-year-old construction worker.

He ran through crowds of Chavez supporters packing the streets around the presidential palace wearing a Venezuelan flag as a cape and yelling: “Oh, no! Chavez won’t go!”

“It’s time now to sweep away the squalid ones,” said another elated supporter, Ignacio Gonzalez, using a description of the opposition Chavez employed during campaigning.

“It’s time to get them out of governor’s and mayor’s offices. The next battle is in December,” when state and municipal elections will be held, added the 25-year-old student, who wore a red shirt that wedded the images of Chavez, Jesus Christ and South American independence hero Simon Bolivar.

Capriles posed the strongest challenge yet to Chavez, who won by a 27-point margin in 2006 and by 16 points when he was first elected in 1998.

“I will continue working to build one country,” said the wiry, 40-year-old grandson of Holocaust survivors who unified and energized the opposition while barnstorming across the country.

He said in his concession speech that he rejects the idea of two Venezuelas divided by ideology and class.

Capriles had vowed to address violent crime that has spun out of control, streamline a patronage-bloated bureaucracy and end rampant corruption, but his promises proved inadequate against Chavez’s charisma, well-oiled political machine and legacy of putting Venezuela’s poor first with generous social welfare programs.

Yet with a turnout of 81 percent, Chavez only got 551,902 more votes this time around than he did six years ago, while the opposition boosted its tally by 2.09 million. Chavez appeared to acknowledge the opposition’s growing clout.

“I extend from here my recognition of all who voted against us, recognition of their democratic weight,” he told thousands of cheering supporters from the balcony of the Miraflores presidential palace.

Por que a Venezuela está vendendo suas reservas de ouro?

Outra questão igualmente importante é saber onde está o dinheiro da venda.

POR LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | OUTUBRO 7, 2012

Depois de anunciar com grande alarde a chegada das suas reservas de ouro da Europa na mídia nacional, o governo venezuelano está vendendo seu ouro e, supostamente, “injetando” dinheiro das vendas na economia. Anunciado como um evento histórico para o país, a chegada da última remessa de ouro venezuelano da Europa em janeiro passado, desapareceu tão rápido quanto veio do território bolivariano.

O governo liderado por Hugo Chávez teve que recorrer a venda de reservas de ouro do país para adicionar dólares para a economia. Em janeiro passado, tanques blindados e caminhões escoltaram ouro venezuelano  de um de seus portos para os cofres do Banco Central, enquanto a mídia patrocinado pelo governo repetia incansavelmente  como o retorno do ouro era uma medida para fortalecer a soberania nacional e o futuro econômico da Venezuela. O ouro da Venezuela tinha ficado em bancos europeus por quase duas décadas antes de retornar ao país, depois que Hugo Chávez ordenou o seu regresso em 2011.

A chegada de ouro que começou no ano passado levou o governo a começar a vende-lo, a fim de colocar mais dólares na economia venezuelana. As primeiras vendas representaram 3,2 toneladas de ouro, que foi usado para tentar aliviar a escassez de dólares nos mercados. A venda de ouro para comprar dólares não foi revelado ao publico até recentemente na Venezuela, depois que o Fundo Monetário Internacional revelou detalhes sobre a operação na semana passada.

Também na semana passada, a agência de notícias Reuters publicou detalhes do relatório do FMI, que aponta como as reservas de ouro da Venezuela diminuíram 10,98 toneladas em 2012. O país viu as suas reservas baixar de 372,93 a 362,93 toneladas que foram vendidas em agosto passado. Apenas no mês passado, o Banco Central da Venezuela vendeu 3,2 toneladas por um total de $ 300 milhões.

Quarta-feira passada, o presidente da Comissão de Finanças da Assembleia Nacional, o deputado Ricardo Sanguino, disse ao jornal Mundo que “O fato era que o governo havia realmente vendido mais de três toneladas de ouro. De acordo com informações publicadas pela imprensa local, a venda foi feita para aliviar a escassez de dólares de dinheiro que o país enfrenta e para cobrir o pagamento de importações, que no último ano aumentou em 20%.

A principal fonte de dinheiro estrangeiro é a exportação de petróleo da Venezuela, que também financia 60% do orçamento nacional. As reservas de petróleo são menores neste momento, enquanto o presidente Hugo Chávez busca a reeleição para mais um mandato de seis anos.

Venezuela possui hoje as maiores reservas de petróleo comprovadas, enquanto o preço do recurso é superior a $ 102. Mas a estatal Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) produz abaixo da sua capacidade. Há um mês, houve uma explosão de tanques de combustível na maioria de suas refinarias. O evento matou 48 pessoas paralisou operações na instalação do governo.

As importações são o oxigênio da economia venezuelana. Cerca de 80% dos alimentos consumidos no país são importados: leite em pó, carne, açúcar, frango, café, oferecidos a preços subsidiados no mercado popular da rede operada pelo Estado e, junto com tudo isso, o governo também subsidia todos os programas sociais que beneficiam os mais pobres. Este é o grupo de pessoas que geralmente apoia a Hugo Chávez.

As importações são controlados pelo governo, que desde 2003 tem uma política estrita de troca de produtos. A compra de mercadorias estrangeiras é estritamente controlado pela Comissão de Administração de Importações, que decide quem pode comprar moeda estrangeira.

Somente empresários próximos ao poder tem acesso à taxa oficial de 4,3 bolívares por dólar. O resto das pessoas são obrigadas a comprar dos dois mercados de câmbio paralelos que operam no país.

A venda de ouro para inundar o mercado com dólares americanps é visto como uma questão política de Hugo Chávez, que precisava manter seus fãs felizes até domingo 07 de outubro, dia da eleição presidencial.

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¿Por qué Venezuela está vendiendo sus reservas de Oro?

Otra cuestión igualmente importante es saber dónde está el dinero de la venta.

POR LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | OCTUBRE 7, 2012

Después de anunciar con bombos y platillos la llegada de sus reservas de oro de Europa en los medios nacionales, el gobierno venezolano está vendiendo ahora mismo el oro y supuestamente “inyectando” el dinero de las ventas en la economía. Calificado como un acontecimiento histórico para el país, la llegada del último cargamento de oro venezolano arrivó de Europa el pasado mes de enero, pero tan rápido como llegó, ahora está saliendo del territorio bolivariano.

El gobierno liderado por Hugo Chávez tuvo que recurrir a la venta de las reservas de oro del país para agregar dólares a la economía. En enero pasado, tanques blindados y camiones escoltaron oro de Venezuela de uno de sus puertos a las arcas del Banco Central, mientras que los medios de comunicación patrocinados por el gobierno repetían incansablemente cómo el regreso del oro era una medida para fortalecer la soberanía nacional y el futuro económico de Venezuela. El oro venezolano había estado en bancos europeos por cerca de dos décadas antes de regresar al país, después que Hugo Chávez ordenó su regreso en 2011.

La llegada del oro que se inició el año pasado llevó al gobierno a iniciar la venta de oro a fin de poner más dólares en la economía venezolana. La primera venta representó 3,2 toneladas de oro, que fue usada para tratar de aliviar la escasez de dólares. La venta de oro para obtener dólares no se hizo público hasta hace poco en Venezuela, después de que el Fondo Monetario Internacional revelara detalles sobre la operación la semana pasada.

También la semana pasada, la agencia de noticias Reuters publicó detalles sobre el informe del FMI, que señala cómo las reservas de oro de Venezuela disminuyeron en 10,98 toneladas en el 2012. El país vio sus 372,93 toneladas convertirse en 362, 05 toneladas, ya que se contabilizó en agosto pasado. Apenas el mes pasado, el Banco Central de Venezuela vendió 3,2 toneladas por alrededor de $ 300 millones.

El miércoles pasado, el presidente del Comité de Finanzas de la Asamblea Nacional, el diputado oficialista Ricardo Sanguino, admitió al diario Mundo que ‘El que el gobierno había vendido de hecho más de tres toneladas de oro. De acuerdo a la información publicada por la prensa local, la venta se hizo para aliviar la escasez de dólares en efectivo que enfrenta el país y para cubrir el pago de las importaciones, que en el último año aumentó en un 20%.

La principal fuente de efectivo en divisas son las exportaciones de petróleo de Venezuela, que también financian el 60% del presupuesto nacional. Las reservas de petróleo son menores en este momento, mientras que el presidente Hugo Chávez busca la reelección por otro período de seis años.

Venezuela posee hoy en día las mayores reservas probadas de petróleo, mientras que el precio de este recurso supera los $ 102. Pero la estatal Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa) produce por debajo de su capacidad. Hace un mes, hubo una explosión de los tanques de combustible de la mayor de sus refinerías. El evento mató a 48 personas y paralizó operaciones en la instalación del gobierno.

Las importaciones son el oxígeno de la economía venezolana. Alrededor del 80% de los productos alimenticios que se consumen en el país son importados: leche en polvo, carne, azúcar, pollo, café ofrecidos a precios subsidiados en el mercado popular de la red gestionada por el Estado y, junto a todo esto, el gobierno también subsidia a todos los programas sociales que beneficien a los más pobres. Este grupo de gente es el que generalmente apoya a Hugo Chávez.

Las importaciones son controladas por el gobierno, que desde 2003 mantiene una estricta política de intercambio de productos. La compra de bienes extranjeros está estrictamente controlada por la Comisión de Administración de Divisas, que decide quién, qué y cuánto los venezolanos pueden comprar en moneda extranjera.

Sólo los empresarios más cercanos al gobierno tienen acceso a la tasa oficial de 4,3 bolívares por dólar. El resto de la gente que debe ir a los dos mercados cambiários paralelos que operan en el país.

La venta de oro para inundar el mercado de divisas con dólares de EE.UU. es visto como un asunto político de Hugo Chávez, que necesitaba mantener a sus seguidores contentos hasta hoy domingo 7 de octubre, el día de la elección presidencial. Resta ver si la venta de oro continuará después de hoy.

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